Gimp On The Go

Travel Tips from a Disabled Traveler

My rented scooter, decked out for the holidays (and theme park safety).
Pride vs. Safety

When I go to a theme park, I have to use an ECV (electronic scooter). I see a lot more of them in the parks, and a lot more near-misses and accidents. Often, this is because people don’t see you when you’re in a wheelchair or ECV. How can they miss you? Because there’s so much to look at.

A theme park is a case of sensory overload, especially at the holidays. Lights flashing, decorations, brightly-colored rides and attractions all distract people walking through the park. Add to that the new park apps that have visitors looking at their phones even more than they were already, and you have a recipe for disaster.

I’ve had a lot of incidents in the past. Once, a woman was backing up to take a photo, not looking behind her (where I was sitting, still, in my ECV). She toppled into my lap, glared at me, and shouted, “Watch where you’re going!” She had no idea I was there.

And people abandon any of the traffic or pedestrian rules they use outside of the park. They stop suddenly, change directions without looking, cut in front of you… their brains are overloaded, overtired and overstimulated.

The worst are the ones who play “chicken.” They see you, but they want to go around you, or cross in front of you, so they glance your way and dart out, not making eye contact. They don’t realize that most ECVs (especially rented ones that are often not in peak condition) don’t stop on a dime. Or a quarter.

One I had was supposed to apply its brakes as soon as I quit pushing on the switch to make it go, and it did… after rolling backward about three feet. Another, when I started it, leaped forward, ignoring the speed it was set to.  Yet people would run across my path, or crowd the back of the scooter, leaving me to yelp at them to get out of the way before they got hurt. Often, the are trailing their little kids behind them. Mom or dad gets clear, but the kids are lucky to escape intact.

First, I added a bicycle horn. Mark and I stood around, honking horns, until we found one that sounded sort of like Harpo Marx. My horn has an irreverent, cheerful toot. Even so, many people resented it when I sounded my horn to let them know they were about to trip over me. This year, since we were headed to the parks during the holidays, I added decorations, and jingle bells. This turned out to be the magic combo.

We bought plastic and tinsel wreaths from a dollar store, outdoor ribbon, and large, jangly bells, packed in my suitcase with plastic zip ties and strings of outdoor-safe, battery-operated lights. Once we picked up the scooter at the hotel, we attached all of these with zip ties, including a dangling ring of jingle bells. Whenever I needed to let people know I was there, I jingled the bells.

It worked like a charm. One man, talking on his phone while walking through a crowded park, almost fell over me without noticing I was there. I jingled the bells and he looked around, spotted me, realized he was about to trip over me, and apologized. “Thanks! I didn’t even know you were there until I heard the bells!” He apologized and we parted on good terms.

I made it through six theme parks without an accident. A couple of near misses from people who clearly saw me and still ran in front of me, but for the most part, it worked great. At night, I turned the lights on. People smiled when they saw me, told me how much they liked seeing the decorations.

One little girl, about four years old, spotted me and grinned. “I love it!,” she told me. “I love you!” She then ran forward to show me to her sisters.

I’m an introvert, so calling attention to myself non-stop for almost two weeks was exhausting. It’s like traveling with a celebrity. People said nice things, and smiled, and I smiled back, even if I was tired. It was worth it. Very few negative interactions and many positive ones. And no accidents.

Did I feel silly? Sure, quite often. But I also was able to get through crowds in a reasonable amount of time, and without  unpleasantness.  If the choice is safety or dignity, I don’t mind looking a little silly.

And it’s great not to have strangers falling on me. Makes for a much better trip. Now the bells and such are back in my suitcase, ready for next time. Happy holidays!

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It’s Time To Color For A Cause!

 

Time to Color For A Cause!

For the third year, we’re hosting Color For A Cause, a free event you can participate in wherever you are!

The idea is to draw or color cards for distribution at hospitals and nursing homes.  We have designs you can print out and use for any non-commercial (no money involved) use, or you can draw your own. Coloring makes a nice break from holiday stress, and you can also have kids color cards to keep them busy around Thanksgiving and during school breaks!

We take cards to places like the local Shriner’s Hospital, to be given to kids who must be in the hospital over the holidays. This year, we hope to expand to a nursing home as well. Wherever you are, you can participate by making cards and taking them to the local hospital or nursing home.

If you print our cards to color, it works well on cardstock (the kind you can easily find at any office supply store), white works well, but they work on any color (it’s just that colored card stock limits your coloring choices). We also take cards to the hospital that aren’t colored in, for the kids to color and give out themselves.

If you make the cards 3.5″ x 5″, you can get two on an 8.5″x11″ sheet of paper. There are 4″x6″ envelopes available in office supply stores. Don’t seal the envelopes — they need to be able to see them at the hospital.

Messages? Keep it simple. The basic guideline is “nothing obscene, nothing overtly religious (as you don’t know what religion the recipient practices), and positive.” A short message is fine and you can sign just your first name (no personal info like addresses).

If you want to join in and send cards to go with ours, the deadline is Nov. 30. You can find info on our Facebook page, facebook.com/IdeaJones.

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NaNoWriMo Is Almost Here!

If you’ve ever uttered the words, “I’d like to write a book some day,” then it’s time to take a chance on your dream. National Novel Writing Month is almost here (starts November 1), and if you go to https://nanowrimo.org , you can sign up (it’s free) and join other writers working on their books. Lots of budding novelists bloom in November by taking part in this.

It holds you accountable. You log in every day in November and submit your word count for the day, and it tracks your progress. You’d be surprised how far you can get with just a little every day. Sure, some weeks you can come up with hours to write, but other days you may have only 30 minutes. Thirty days hath November, which means that by the end of the month, with just 30 minutes a day, you’ll have put in at least 15 hours on your book!

Our NaNoWriMo book for 2018: East-West Crazy

Our NaNoWriMo book is “East-West Crazy,” which is a Women’s Fiction novel with dark humor. It’s already started, but I plan to make real progress in November, and I’m looking forward to it.

My mom used to say that time is a gift so precious, we rarely give it to anyone. For many of us, this is especially true of ourselves. But even if it’s only 15 minutes a day, that’s one whole work day you invested in yourself and your dreams by the end of the month. You’re worth that… and no matter how tight your budget may be, you can afford 15 minutes a day.

By the end of the month, your “some day” will be a lot closer.

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Happy Halloween!

We’re all mad. The best people are. Happy Halloween!

Autumn is here, at last! I’m not a summer person, at least, not since I moved from Santa Cruz. Hot weather isn’t my thing. I like to pick when I get sweaty and when I don’t.  The temperature here is finally starting to slide into the 70s. And that means Halloween is almost here.

I love Halloween. Well, I love holidays in general. But Halloween? Right after Christmas, my favorite holiday. The idea of being able to don a costume and try on a different self is almost irresistible. As a kid, my mom made most of my costumes (she could really sew). I always had the best costumes. But one year, I asked to be a tomato. Yes, a tomato. I was about six. Why a tomato? It  had something to do with talking people into trick-or-treating together as a sandwich, as I recall.

Mom really tried. She would take it apart, start over, mumble to herself. Finally, she told me she wasn’t able to make me a tomato costume. There were things Mom couldn’t do? Since when? But she had made me a costume… Santa Claus. I did *not* want to go out as Santa on Halloween, but rather than disappoint Mom, I did.

I almost had to rent a truck to carry my haul that night. People were virtually throwing candy at me. “That’s so clever!”  “Ha, ha! A reminder of Christmas shopping? That’s the scariest costume I’ve seen all night!”

Here’s hoping your Halloween launches Awesome Autumn and  has the best treats, and only fun tricks.

 

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Farewell, Johnny Wicked and Lady K

Mark and I woke a few days ago to the news that a Facebook friend I’ve known for years, a private individual I’ll call “Lady K,” had died suddenly. Later that day, we learned that our friend, musician John Wicks, had also passed.  We’re still trying to process it.

Lady K was a blogger who wrote about mental health issues. She was courageous in talking about her own challenges, and always encouraging to others. She was also a good person with a big heart and a lovely, warm and supportive friend.

Lady K was a warm, kind soul

She was a recreational shopper, a person who took joy in finding the least expensive way to buy an item. She would show you the item (for example, a bedspread listed for $100), then show you the receipt ($15), and walk you through  how she got the price down that far.

I thought of her today. I’m not much of a recreational shopper (although I love yard sales and thrift stores). We went to the grocery store and bought, among other things, beets. I like beets, but not as much as I like beet greens. But most people tear them off and sure enough, that section of the produce bin was littered with big, fresh beet greens. I collected them in a bag and at the checkstand, gave the clerk the bag and said, “I don’t know what you charge for these… they’re the beet greens that people tore off of the beets and threw back into the bin.”  The clerk smiled and put them with our groceries. “How about free?”  I was happy — I got free, organic beet greens. He was happy — the produce department doesn’t have to clean up a bunch of beet greens. It was a small coup, but I wished I could tell Lady K, who would have understood.

She lived life wide open, which sometimes meant she got hurt, and badly, but she remained an open, good-hearted friend, who loved to laugh and was quick to give others a boost up, even when she didn’t feel all that confident herself. She helped this introvert learn to ask for what she wants.

Johnny Wicked was a public personality (singer/songwriter) and a private one (our friend, John). We got to see the public personality  in concert a few times. Once, and our guess is John and his wife arranged this, we were seated in the VIP section at the club. We sometimes spring for the VIP seats, but not often, and we hadn’t that time — but we arrived and the staff seated us in the VIP section, and told us we had been moved there. It added another layer of fun to an already fun night.

John Wicks, aka Johnny Wicked, was a wonderful performer. He was what the old vaudeville performers would have called “a trouper.” The performer who understands what he owes his audience. He truly believed that old show business adage that “the show must go on.” Once he told me, “The audience pays their money and they deserve the best you can give them.”  Even as cancer racked his body, he gave everything he had. You were guaranteed a good time at a John Wicks show, whether he played solo, in duets with performers such as Debbie Peterson of The Bangles, or with his band, The Records. You never got less than the best he had to offer.

He had high artistic standards and got frustrated when he, or the situation, couldn’t meet them, a thing we talked about more than once as Mark and I can be the same way.

My favorite of John’s songs, and personally relevant as we think of our friend.

When John was first hospitalized, I drew a silly cartoon of him and sent it to give John and his wife Valerie a laugh, thinking they’d get a chuckle out of it and toss it in the trash. But no, John kept it up in his room. Other cartoons followed, getting more outrageous. Privately, we talked about so many things, life in the arts, what we were up to, challenges we faced… but mostly, we cracked jokes.

John could tell a funny story, usually scandalous, true, and worthy of his nickname, Johnny Wicked. He was kind, gentle, and supportive.  He had a great laugh and was absolutely honest about himself. He’d had fame, suffered setbacks, and had to reinvent himself, and while he was disappointed in some things, with reason, he never seemed bitter, only frustrated. Where some would have become cynical, selfish and cold, John was a warm, open guy. He continued to play benefits even as his illness grew.

I was proud to count both Lady K and John among my friends, and feel their loss keenly.  The world is never so well-supplied with good people that we can afford to lose one, and now we have lost two.

 

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